We’re entering the home stretch of spring drills, and as we get there, things along the offensive and defensive fronts are starting to take shape.
* On the defensive line, coach Mike Elston seems to like what he’s been seeing.
“When Coach Kelly asked me to coach the defensive line, I was asked the question, ‘What are your expectations?’ I expect to be the best defensive line in the country,” Elston said after practice on Wednesday. “Our guys are working toward that. They’re going to be tough to block.”
While Elston sang the praises of his presumptive starting three, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ian Williams, and Ethan Johnson, he also singled out Emeka Nwankwo for his work this spring.
“He’s a physical, athletic player,” Elston said. “We’re going to see him. He improves every day and he gets it. He’s going to be a hard guy to keep off the field.”
Adding depth at defensive end is a huge priority, especially after Lane Clelland shifted back to offensive tackle. (We can only wonder if it was his inability to thrive on defense or the result of the Matt James tragedy.) Nwankwo is going to be a key reserve and likely will get a ton of minutes, as he’s got the frame needed and the time in a college weight room that’ll give him the chance to succeed on the field.
* On the other side of the ball, the offensive line continues to shuffle as it searches for the right combination of five linemen to protect quarterback Dayne Crist. While left guard seems to be set with senior Chris Stewart, the rest of the line is still a work in progress.
“The sooner we can get set, the better, but we’re not going to rush it,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “When it’s ready, it’s ready. I’d like to come out of spring with a pretty good idea of who our guys are going to be. They’re learning a completely different offense. There’s very little carryover, other than we’re playing football. The terminology is completely different, schemes and so forth. Some guys take just a little longer. We’re off to a good start.”
The widespread changes also apply to position groups and the depth chart. Trevor Robinson, who spent last year at right guard is now outside at right tackle. Braxston Cave and fifth-year center Dan Wenger seem to be trading off as the first-string center. Redshirt Zack Martin might have leapfrogged Matt Romine at left tackle, impressing the staff with his work this spring.
* The Los Angeles Times had a nice piece on former Notre Dame tight end Joseph Fauria, now a transfer at UCLA. The 6-foot-7 tight end is already on the same wavelength as Bruin quarterback Kevin Prince, as the two were teammates in high school. Fauria snagged a 10-yard touchdown pass from Prince during a Bruin scrimmage last weekend.
“As long as I stay healthy, I don’t see why we can’t do that more often,” Fauria said.
While there’s less of a role for Fauria in Brian Kelly’s offense, it’s hard not to shake your head and wonder what could’ve been when you consider that Will Yeatman, Mike Ragone, Fauria, and Kyle Rudolph could all be on this Irish roster.
* Finally, a reader sent in this video of Joe Montana working on his quarterbacking skills. Channeling Ed Helms character from The Hangover after watching Iron Mike Tyson knock out one of his buddies, you’ve just got to say, “Joe Montana… he’s still got it.”